Jazz Profile: Cody Wright

Cody Wright  Photo: Frank Zipperer
Cody Wright Photo: Frank Zipperer

by Eddie LeShure

“It’s not often that I run across a musician like Cody. His charming personality and virtuosity on both bass and guitar should serve him well. I look forward to watching his career blossom. Cody is becoming a world class musician of the highest order!”  ~ Grammy winning guitarist Al Petteway

Raised in Florida, Virginia and Georgia, Cody Wright has been a music lover since early childhood and musician since age 13, his early instrumental training revolving around blues and rock guitar.

“I was exposed to R&B and rock by my mom, and blues, country, and bluegrass by my dad. I also dug funk, listening to it in the video games I played at the time. Later as a teen, I also checked out rap and metal: Pantera and Alice in Chains were my favorites. I began studying jazz guitar at the age of 16 and was a member of Warren Wilson College’s Jazz Ensemble from 2008 until my graduation in 2011.”

Although originally a guitarist, Cody joined the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra as a bassist in 2011. When switching to bass, Cody was able to capitalize on the picking and left hand techniques developed playing fusion guitar in the style of Scott Henderson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Frank Gambale and Shawn Lane. His guitar training and musical tastes also left him with a sense of harmony and melody advanced for a bassist.

“Nowadays, I love funk. It’s the backbone of my style and I love the role the bass plays in funk. I also love jazz and R&B horn and piano players. Three of my all-time favorite musicians are Roland Kirk, a force of nature on any wind instrument but also a stunningly emotional soloist, pianist Art Tatum, the most amazing solo musician I’ve ever heard, and guitarist Tommy Emmanuel — my biggest influence as a composer.”

“Cody Wright is a bright light in the music scene. He’s a multi-instrumentalist with chops galore, and he plays with sophistication beyond his years.” ~ Guitarist Don Alder

In 2012, Cody was able to share the stage with legendary bassists Victor Wooten and Oteil Burbridge. “I learned what it really means to be humble. On the bandstand, every player was equal in their eyes. Their whole intent is focused on what the ensemble calls for, not on waiting for the right moment to “let rip.” As Oteil said, the bass ‘has to be a slave to the song first.’ Oteil also taught me the value of overcoming the natural fear of exposing yourself and just letting it all out – the good, bad, and ugly — because it’s all art, anyways!

Victor Wooten is a big risk-taker, but even his “risks” groove like nobody’s business. He just plays everything with so much taste, feel and groove before anything else. When he takes a chance, he jumps into it all the way. He doesn’t think about it — he’s concentrated on being as groovy as possible. They both have such an intense way of committing to their phrases that it’s almost impossible to not be influenced by them.”

The best advice he’s ever gotten from a musician? “Years ago, blues man Corey Harris told me that he thought I was great, but so was everybody else, commenting, ‘There are a million great players, just look on YouTube. If you want to really go somewhere as an artist, you’ll have to do something different and unique.’”

In 2013, Jonathan Scales Fourchestra released their self-titled album with Wooten (along with fellow Flecktone Howard Levy) as a special guest, as well as compositional help from Cody and drummer/percussion master Phill Bronson.

When asked about advice for up-and-coming musicians, Cody stressed the value of staying true to one’s own good taste. “Give into the emotions in the music. Let it make you cry, laugh, ponder. Let it take you for a ride. That way, you can learn about those emotions from experience, and develop your own ability to channel them outward.”

“Seriously righteous bass… a groove that won’t quit.” ~ Kevin Johnson, www.Notreble.com